Dylan Obscuranti: Track 10: What kind of friend is this?

By Tony Attwood

A new Dylan Album

This is an album made up of tracks either by Dylan himself or other artists covering his work, which I think might be unknown to many fans.   The songs are drawn from all sections of his work, with the hope that at least some of the tracks introduce you to an element of Bob’s work you may have missed in the past.

While most of the Dylan catalogue has been highlighted over and over again, there are odd moments that haven’t had too much attention, so that’s what this collection brings together.

This time it is one of the hotel songs – and it is one that I think has not had the same kind of publicity as many of the others.  The guitar playing and certainty of the singing is something to behold.

The idea for this song’s title could have come from, “What kind of man is this” by Koko Taylor.  Although the feel of the songs is different in each case, they are both 12 bar blues, and it is quite possible Dylan either deliberately or through a half-buried memory, returned to the title for this highly enjoyable improvised piece.

What Dylan does is give the 12 bar format a real bounce and some real light energy – and it is once of those songs I really wish he had been able to finish off and deliver in a recording studio, while keeping the wonderful lighthearted bounce.   It is the sort of song most songwriters would have been proud of, cherished and most certainly put on an album – and played at the gigs.

We have the one recording from the hotel room, of which the first 30 seconds (after whatever advert is served up to you) is a false start.

The lyrics which follow are based as ever on the work of Eyolf Østrem – I have added a couple of elements of my own, but those are probably going to be the ones that are totally wrong in everyone else’s opinion!

But the point about the words here, as in other rough drafts of song, is that they are an approximation.  Bob seems to have some idea of the song’s lyrics in his head, but the others are made up as they go along.

It was around this time that Dylan did an interview saying that the songs he didn’t get to record were just forgotten since he didn’t keep notes.  It is such a shame that he didn’t keep notes of this one because it could not only have become not just a great album song, as I have suggested, but a wonderful song to sing part way through a concert before he got back to the songs we all know.

Starting at 30 seconds into the recording.

Tell me What kind of friend is this?
What kind of friend is this?
Who loves me behind my back
What kind of friend is this
Shows up every place I've been
She act kind of 'lone
but she don't
She making a loan
But you know she won't
She so languid in the morning
And she's making it on my bed
Aw, what kind of friend is this?

What kind of friend is this?
What kind of friend is this?
makin' [...]
What kind of friend is this?
Losing up anything
Back off, boy
When she goes down
[Lay down laid]
She's walking around
Well, she ain't got nothin'
but she's teedle toodle tummin' on a
pack of beans
Tell me what kind of friend is this?

Well she [don't lean if she don't man]
You know she's gonna be her dog.
She [done gone], She no whore
Heart stopped a-beating and she [...]

Well, what kind of friend is this
make me holler to and fro
who wants to go everywhere I wanna go
Back off, she
don't care for me
[...] own lady
if she could only see
I'd give her everything
If she comes back along to this 
Tell me what kind of friend is this?

What else?

You can read about the writers who kindly contribute to Untold Dylan in our About the Authors page.   And you can keep an eye on our current series by checking the listings on the home page

You’ll also find, at the top of this page, and index to some of our series established over the years.  Series we are currently running include

  • The art work of Bob Dylan’s albums
  • The Never Ending Tour year by year with recordings
  • Bob Dylan and Stephen Crane
  • Beautiful Obscurity – the unexpected covers
  • All Directions at Once

You’ll find links to all of them on the home page of this site

If you have an article or an idea for an article which could be published on Untold Dylan, please do write to Tony@schools.co.uk with the details – or indeed the article itself.

We also have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with getting on for 10,000 members. Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link    And because we don’t do political debates on our Facebook group there is a separate group for debating Bob Dylan’s politics – Icicles Hanging Down

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